Birder's Guide

MAY 2017

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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48 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | May 2017 Humbanding in Idaho bills," says Fred Bassett, an Idaho humband- er. "As they age, the grooves fill in, making their bills smooth." If many grooves remain, it's a young bird. Otherwise, it's an adult. Iridescent gorget feathers on the throat help determine age and sex. The iridescence is created by a combination of pigments (that absorb and bend light) and microscop - ic structures (that bend light). Tail feather colors and shapes, and tail and wing mea- surements help determine species and sex. Next, the bander uses a soda straw to softly blow feathers aside in order to look beneath the transparent skin at the amount of yellowish fat stored on the bird's body. Fat collects on the breast, below the chin, and on the sides, and its presence or ab- sence is a good indicator of a bird's health. More fat is better, because the bird will burn it quickly during migration. Finally, the bird is weighed on a digital scale and given a drink of sugar water be- fore its release. Sharing Hummers Now the real fun begins. Younger school- children and scouts are first in line to hold and release the hummers. As one of them takes the tiny bird on his palm, listening carefully to the bander's instructions as they watch and wait for it to fly away, the delight on the kids' faces is im- measurable. All of this is sure to make a lasting impression. And, indeed, that's the idea behind IBO's public education programs. IBO's mission is "to impact human lives and significantly contribute to the conservation of western migratory land- birds and their habitats through coopera- tive research and public education." Via its community outreach programs, IBO ac- tively promotes public involvement, stew- ardship, and wildlife viewing. Hundreds of visitors from all over the U.S. and beyond come to their banding stations and events at Lucky Peak near Boise, Idaho City, and other venues every year. Birders, school children, college students, scout troops, parents, teachers, volunteers, international interns, and other interested guests all can enjoy world-class encounters with wildlife. Hanging out with the birds is way too cool to keep to themselves; accordingly, the humbanders delight in sharing their work with the public. Their infectious enthusi- asm and impressive knowledge can't help but rub off. Hands-on close encounters like these can lead to a subconscious conserva- tion ethic. "While IBO's research is all-important and interesting," says IBO's Executive Director and co-founder Greg Kaltenecker, "we believe that it means nothing if we can't share the results with the general public. Only through their knowledge of our research will we really ever affect con- servation of these species in the long run." The humbanders at Rudeen Ranch agree. "The one-day roundup is held as a repeat- able sampling event at the same time each year to build a long-term dataset docu- menting the population," says humbander Carl Rudeen. "Opening the event up to the public for education is arguably more valu- able than the data. It's hard to reach more than a few people at a time if you don't have an organized way to do it." Idaho's humbanders always eagerly an- ticipate their next banding sessions. Their ongoing research and monitoring efforts provide a deeper understanding of the re- gion's hummingbirds and help to foster in the public a love and greater appreciation of nature and its conservation. Making Reservations Humbanding takes place in Idaho City from mid-May through mid-August. Crews band for five hours, starting at sunrise. Usually, about 500 Calliope, Black-chinned, and Rufous hummers are banded per season. Because these events have become so popular, a prior reservation is required. Please contact the Intermountain Bird Observatory for a reservation: ibo.boisestate.edu The Rudeen Ranch Hummingbird Roundup is currently held during the first weekend in June. No reservations are required for this free event, but for the exact date and directions, visit hummingbirdroundup.com. An average of 550 Black-chinned, Broad-tailed, and Calliope hum- mingbirds are captured at the ranch each year. n A girl calmly holds a newly banded and painted hummingbird to release it. This hummer stayed in her hand much longer than usual, to the delight of everyone watching at the Rudeen Ranch Hummingbird Roundup. Rudeen Ranch, Idaho, 28 May 2007. Photo by © Elise Faike n Calliope Hummingbird, Challis, Idaho. Photo © David Faike

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